Our latest student story features Simon Webster, Junior Academy S&C Coach at Saracens RFC. Simon is a graduate of our BSc in Strength & Conditioning and a current student on our MSc in Performance Coaching. 

Below, he provides an insight into his transition from being a cricket player to becoming a strength & conditioning coach, along with what his current role with Saracens RFC entails. 

Transitioning from Cricket to S&C Coaching

Simon’s journey and interest into the world of S&C coaching developed from his own experience as a high-level cricket player. Having represented Nottinghamshire Cricket Academy and England age groups, three shoulder operations and two back surgeries by the age of 22 forced him to rethink his career path. 

“Following the decision to step away from cricket, through my extensive time spent rehabbing with my S&C coach and Physio, the passion to study further and pursue a career within sport as an S&C coach began.”

The PCA (Players Cricket Association) helped guide him towards the Setanta undergraduate degree. “The flexibility of the Setanta course allowed me to continue to coach cricket, whilst beginning to build a personal training business within North London. Thus, helping me to transition away from professional sport fairly smoothly,” he notes.

Progressing to a Role at Saracens RFC

This change of career and further education brought with it an opportunity to join Saracens RFC, where he is now Junior Academy S&C coach. The role places him at the heart of supporting the development of young rugby players. His responsibilities extend to overseeing 80-90 junior academy players, ranging in age from 15 to 18. “Between myself and another S&C coach, we’ll have the responsibility of looking after different areas, schools, and highlighted players within our region,” Simon explains. “We also have our pathway programme that sits underneath the junior academy, our role will be to help ensure our foundation gym programmes and on pitch warm are delivered effectively. Thus, building relationships with local S&C coaches to help deliver this programme, aiming to ensuring an optimal athletic development pathway can be delivered throughout the junior pathway at Saracens.” 

Simon’s daily routine is a dynamic blend of coaching, monitoring and collaboration. “My day typically involves going to one of our feeder schools early morning to get in the gym with a highlighted player, or group of players who may all be at the same school. I’ll then return back to the training ground. The rest of my morning/early afternoon will involve completing any necessary data collection (GPS & gym data)/monitoring we’ll do with our players to continue to monitor their athletic development. Each day there will be conversations with our coaching staff and medical team around the wider squad, or how certain individual players are doing etc. 

The afternoon will often involve squeezing in a quick gym session, before either getting on the road for our squad sessions down at the stadium, or seeing more highlighted players in the gym or helping to run the Performance centres we’ll deliver in the different counties within our region.”

Memorable Moments & Coaching Approach

Simon’s coaching career has been marked by numerous memorable moments. “Moments where the players you work closely with and build great relationships along the way. When you see them go on to achieve higher international honours, as well as making their first team debut and beginning to excel within the club, that’s what it’s all about!” he emphasises. 

“For me, it’s about trying to create great people,” Simon asserts. “At the age group I work with, I have the opportunity to install the behaviours required for each player to maximize their potential, both on and off the pitch. This begins with the foundations I can help lay, and then how once these are set, I can begin to try maximise their physical potential, whilst driving a work ethic that could hopefully help them achieve their goals.” 

The Setanta Experience

Following his graduation from the BSc in Strength & Conditioning, Simon has progressed onto the MSc in Performance Coaching. This educational journey with Setanta has been marked by a desire for personal and professional growth.

“I’ve loved it!” he exclaims. “I wanted to do the MSc to further develop myself as an S&C coach, and I feel that Setanta has given me the tools to help improve myself as a coach, as well as giving me a better understanding as to how I can action this within the real-life setting of professional sport.

The practical experiences the professors were able to share on the residential were incredible. Some of the seminars about frameworks and how to create a high functioning multi-disciplinary department was excellent, it made me check and challenge what we do, and how we can keep improving!”

Advice for Aspiring S&C Coaches

Simon’s advice to aspiring S&C coaches is to ensure they are pursuing the career for the right reasons. “Firstly, make sure you’re doing it for the right reason, if you can find your ‘why’, the enjoyment and relationships you build along the way are truly special.” he advises. “After that, I’d say be willing to put yourself out there. Be the yes person… someone who brings energy to the group and is inquisitive to keep learning in any environment.” 

Future Goals

Looking ahead, he hopes to continue working within the academy and senior academy systems. “I hope to continue to work within the academy/senior academy system. The opportunity to create frameworks, and systems that can aim to churn out exceptional athletes, and people who go on to succeed great things over a prolonged period gives me huge excitement.”